Court rules that fracking natural gas from a neighboring property is trespassing

This article discusses a landmark ruling that could open the door to “hundreds of trespass lawsuits”. This is really big and could be used in the Taylorsville Basin.

On Monday the Pennsylvania Superior Court issued an opinion that could have major ramifications for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the state: It states a company trespassed on a family’s land by extracting natural gas from beneath their property while operating a fracking well next door.

The Briggs family owns about 11 acres of land in Harford Township in Susquehanna County. When Southwestern Energy began operating an unconventional natural gas well on the adjacent property in 2011, the Briggs declined to lease their mineral rights to the company for development. In 2015, they filed a complaint that Southwestern was trespassing by extracting gas from beneath their property without a lease.

Southwestern didn’t dispute they’d removed natural gas from beneath the Briggs’ land, but argued they weren’t trespassing due to the “rule of capture,” which says the first person to “capture” a natural resource like groundwater, gas or oil owns it, regardless of property lines.

A lower court agreed with Southwestern and issued a summary judgement in their favor, but yesterday’s Superior Court opinion overturns that decision, stating that the rule of capture shouldn’t apply to unconventional natural gas drilling because of key differences in the method of extraction.

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